Tuesday, November 27, 2012


                         SHIPS IN THE NIGHT
                        Low budget ($250,000) feature film 
                        set almost entirely inside a taxi.


Credit sequence. Music over. “If you leave me can I come too” by Mental as Anything.

A taxi drives along the Cahill Expressway towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge; the Sydney Opera House in the background.


Credit sequence continues. Tilt down from bridge to reveal MATT, mid 40s, through the windscreen of his taxi. Behind him, in the back seat, a YOUNG COUPLE wrapped in each others arms. 


Credit sequence continues. MATT, a little overweight, his hair thinning, turns the music up a little, bops along to it. An old favourite. MATT wears a tan sports jacket with a club logo on the breast pocket. 

MENTAL AS ANYTHING “Don't let it happen again 'cause that I couldn't take…” 

A smile plays on MATT’S lips. The song brings back memories. The YOUNG MAN and YOUNG WOMAN, late teens, uni students, look at MATT bopping along to the music, exchange looks.
MENTAL AS ANYTHING “…once was quite enough…”
MATT mouths the words. He knows them by heart.

MENTAL AS ANYTHING “…It's easy to forgive,  harder to forget.”

MATT, having forgotten his passengers, sings along:

MATT “If you leave me, can I come too? We can always stay…”
The YOUNG COUPLE watch MATT from behind, bopping along with greater enthusiasm now. What he lacks in singing talent he makes up for with passion. They laugh, shake their heads. 

MATT “…But if you leave me, can I come too? And if you go, can I come too?”

The YOUNG WOMAN, a little intoxicated, leans forward, her head close to MATT’S, breaking into his memories as she speaks:

YOUNG WOMAN Any chance of listening to something from this century?

MATT (grins) Nope. 

YOUNG WOMAN  Like, we’re paying you, right…?

MATT  To get you home…not to be your DJ.

The YOUNG MAN laughs, pulls her back into his arms.  

YOUNG WOMAN We’re paying him, right! I mean…

The YOUNG MAN stops her with a kiss. MATT looks in the rear-vision mirror at them as they kiss, whisper conspiratorially.

End credit sequence.


Matt’s taxi makes its way down a leafy street in an affluent suburb. The sound of a rooster crowing announces the arrival of a phone call.

YOUNG WOMAN (voice off) Next left, thanks driver.

The left hand indicator of the taxi flashes yellow.


As he turns left MATT reaches into the left side pocket of his sports jacket with his left hand, takes out his mobile phone. We catch a glimpse of the logo on his jacket – long enough to register the word ROOSTERS. On the LCD screen, one word: Juliet. MATT smiles, presses an icon. A photo appears onscreen: 

a smiling girl (15, 16) with braces on her teeth.

MATT  Sweetheart.

JULIET’S VOICE Hey, dad. (A BEAT) You driving?

MATT Yep. (A BEAT) You okay?

JULIE Can you talk?

MATT Call you back in five, okay?


MATT Promise.

Juliet hangs up. MATT is driving now down a street with a park on one side; big expensive houses on the other. He does not notice the YOUNG WOMAN taking off her high heeled shoes.  

YOUNG MAN Anywhere here thanks…

MATT slows, pulls to the side of the road, looks at the meter.

MATT $56.

The YOUNG WOMAN gets out, carrying her shoes. The YOUNG MAN walks to the front passenger door, opens it, takes out his wallet. The YOUNG WOMAN, shoes in hand, walks barefoot into the park. As the YOUNG MAN opens his wallet the YOUNG WOMAN breaks into a sprint. The YOUNG MAN smiles sheepishly, shrugs. 


He turns and runs into the park. 

MATT Fuck!

MATT is out of the car in a flash and giving chase. 


MATT chases the YOUNG WOMAN, the YOUNG MAN veering off in another direction. 

MATT is a big barrel-chested man whose muscle has lost its tone. He can run fast, however, and is rapidly gaining on the YOUNG WOMAN. He is within grabbing distance when he stumbles. One of his slipper shoes has come off. 

MATT stops for a moment, picks his shoe up, continues the chase. The YOUNG WOMAN is now pulling away from him. MATT, in his frustration, throws his shoe at her. It would be a direct hit were it not for the fact that the YOUNG WOMAN turns at just the right moment, sees the shoe coming at her, reaches out and catches it – letting out a joyous whoop as she does so. 

MATT, not in the best condition, is out of breath. He puts his hand to his heart, tries to bring his rapid breathing under control.

The YOUNG WOMAN, 30 meters away, slips her high-heeled shoes back on; ambles casually up a street on the other side of the park – tossing Matt’s shoe into the air, catching it. 

MATT looks down at his feet: one red sock, one green sock. He takes off his remaining slipper shoe and turns to return to his cab. He hears laughter, turns and sees:

The YOUNG MAN running up to the YOUNG WOMAN. She passes matt’s slipper to him as if it were a football. The YOUNG MAN catches it and they stroll off, laughing.  

MATT ambles back towards his cab, shoulders stooped in weary resignation and defeat, clutching his one slipper – a small lonely figure illuminated by the headlights of his taxi.  


MATT drops into the driver’s seat, shuts the door, stares into space for a long moment. The sound of a rooster crowing. Matt’s mobile is ringing but he does not hear it. Suddenly, explosively, he smashes his left fist into the windscreen. It does not break but from his painful yelp and the way he shakes his wrist it is clear MATT has hurt himself. He looks at his knuckles. The skin is broken. Blood appears. Only now does he register the rooster crowing sound from his left jacket pocket. He moves to reach into the pocket with his left hand, notices that small droplets of blood have appeared on his knuckles.  He decides to get his mobile with his right hand. It is an awkward maneuver and by the time he has the mobile in his hand Juliet has hung up.

MATT Fuck!

MATT looks at his bloodied knuckles, licks the blood away, grimaces a little; it stings. He opens and closes his fist, checks for broken bones. There seem to be none but he is in pain. He tries to press ‘J’ and ‘U’ on the keypad with his left hand, but with the pain and his big fingers he has difficulty pressing the right keys on the small device. He gets it eventually. The photo of Juliet appears onscreen.

MESSAGE The person you have called is not…

MATT terminates the call, tries again.

MESSAGE The person you have called is not available. If you wish to…  

MATT terminates the call, returns his mobile to his left jacket pocket. His raw knuckles come into contact with cloth. Ouch! Worse, there is a bloodstain at the edge of the pocket.

MATT shakes his head, curses at himself wordlessly, reaches out, opens the glove compartment, takes out a packet of Kleenex tissues and tries to clean up the blood on his jacket with it. This only serves to spread the stain over a larger area. MATT hangs his head, shakes it. He is at the end of his tether. He reaches forward, turns on the ignition.


MATT drives, a blood stained Kleenex tissue wrapped around his knuckles. He doesn’t like the music he is listening to, punches a button on the radio; changes stations. He doesn’t like the new musical option either, punches another button in frustration. His mobile rings. He takes it out of his left pocket, glances at the screen: Juliet. He lifts it to his ear, sees a police car approaching, drops the mobile out of view, waits till the police car passes, checks his rear vision mirror, lifts it to his ear. Before he has a chance to speak:

JULIET’S VOICE You still got a passenger?


JULIET’S VOICE You were going to call me back!

MATT I tried, but got your message bank.

JULIET’S VOICE I didn’t get any message. (A BEAT) You driving?

MATT I’m pulling over. Hang on.  

MATT slows, moves to the side of the road.

JULIET’S VOICE You okay? You sound…

MATT I’m fine. You?

JULIET’S VOICE You want the long story or the twitter version?

MATT (smiles) How’s school?


MATT (grimaces) I meant uni…

JULIET’S VOICE Cool. Going really well.(A BEAT) I know it’s late, but… 

Juliet needs a little encouragement but is not getting it. 


JULIET pauses. MATT’S mood changes.

MATT Is your mother there?

JULIET’S VOICE No. This is me calling…Fuck dad!

MATT Okay, it’s just…the last time…

JULIET’S VOICE The last time was the last time…I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have hung up on you…


JULIET’S VOICE No, it’s not OK.


MATT is at a loss how to talk to his daughter. A long silence. 

MATT You still there?

JULIET’S VOICE Yes. Sorry for calling so late… early…but… 

MATT No…I’ve pulled over. (A FEW BEATS) It’s OK. (A BEAT) How is your mother?  

JULIET’S VOICE You don’t really want to know!

MATT Okay.

JULIET’S VOICE Okay, okay, okay!(A BEAT) Hassling me bigtime…about…that money…you know…for my teeth!

MATT Why doesn’t she call me herself?

JULIET’S VOICE I didn’t call you about my teeth.

MATT Okay. 

JULIET’S VOICE Jesus, dad!

MATT What?

JULIET’S VOICE Doesn’t matter? 

MATT Tell her I’ll put some money into her account tomorrow, okay…today…How much do you need?

JULIET’S VOICE Whatever you think I’m worth. Bye dad.

Juliet hangs up. MATT shakes his head, angry with himself. He tries to call Juliet back, gets her message bank:

MESSAGE The person you have called…

MATT terminates the call - angry, perplexed; at a loss to understand. As he stares out through the windscreen a car approaches, it’s high-beam headlights blinding him for a second and drawing his attention to something on his windscreen. He leans forward, looks at it closely, but can see nothing. 

MATT turns on the interior light but can still not make out what it was he saw. He picks up a flashlight, shines it on the windscreen, finds the right angle. There is a tiny crack where his fist met the glass. MATT laughs, shakes his head. It is not a happy laugh. He looks down at his bloody Kleenex covered knuckles. His attention is caught by a soft cracking sound. The tiny crack is growing – one inch, two inches…and then it stops. MATT stares at it; his jaw clenched tight.


MATT sits in his taxi, six cabs back from the head of the rank. Pubs and clubs closed some time ago and the streets are  almost deserted. 

On the other side of the road, unseen by MATT, TRACY, mid teens, in mini skirt, ‘boob tube’ and very high heels, walks purposefully past THREE DRUNKEN YOUNG MEN in the street now  who make no attempt to hide their hormone driven interest. 


MATT holds his mobile at his ear:

MESSAGE The person you have called is not…

He places his mobile on the seat beside him, takes the blood-stained Kleenex from his knuckles. The bleeding has stopped but he has raw pink wounds on three knuckles. MATT places the Kleenex in a plastic rubbish bag at his feet, takes a wad of $10 and $20 bills from his money pouch. 


TRACY ignores the THREE DRUNKEN YOUNG MEN leering behind her as she stands at the edge of the road across from the taxi rank, checking out the various drivers – one of whom is MATT. TRACY is dressed and made up to look 19 but probably only 17. No longer a girl, not yet a woman but trying hard. 

A nervous skinny red-haired man, BLUE, (late teens) calls out from behind a tree – a plaintive pleading in his voice.

BLUE (voice off) Trace!

TRACY ignores him, steps off the curb.


MATT finishes counting his nights takings, shakes his head. A bad night! He leans forward to look at the crack in the window. It has not grown any bigger. He takes a sign from under his seat, sticks it on the windscreen: SOUTHERN SUBURBS

TRACY crosses the road, her eyes on MATT. She is out of his field of vision and he does not notice her.

Close on MATT. He takes a slim parcel (10” x 8”) tied with a ribbon from the bag beneath his legs, opens the envelope attached to it, takes out a greeting card, flips it open, takes a pen from his pocket with his damaged hand. 

As he thinks about what to write (MATT is left-handed) his attention is caught by TRACY.

TRACY (voice off) Squeeze me!

MATT looks up. TRACY smiles at him with bright red lips. 

TRACY Can you drive me home?

...to be continued...

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